Benguet caretaker Congressman Eric Yap of the ACT-CIS party-list filed House Bill 7778 on September 27, 2020, files yet another bill pushing for the establishment of the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera. This is the 3rd proposed law with the intent of establishing autonomy for the Cordillera region in the 18th Congress alongside House Bill 5687 filed by all Cordillera Congressmen including Benguet solon Nestor Fongwan as well as Senate Bill 1232 filed by Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Filing multiple bills with the same content is not uncommon in Philippine legislation and is usually a sign of increasing support towards the intended goals. In this case, the filing of another Cordillera autonomy bill establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera shows the support that Congressman Yap committed to his adopted province and region.
In an earlier meeting of Congressman Yap with Cordillera autonomy advocates led by the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) and NEDA-CAR, as its secretariat, he committed to review the existing HB 5687 and assured that whatever bill he files in Congress will be given his full attention until its passage. Cordillera Congressmen welcomed the caretaker legislator’s initiative in later meetings.
Like SB 1232, HB 7778 is virtually the same as the initially filed HB 5687. This bill is part of the third attempt at establishing Cordillera autonomy after 2 failed plebiscites in 1990 and 1998. These plebiscites failed in part due to inadequate devolution of powers in the bills passed by Congress. Current Ifugao Congressman Solomon Chungalao, who was part of the first attempt at a Cordillera Organic Law, said the original Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission opposed the first Cordillera autonomy law, RA 6766, saying it was a “watered down” version of what they submitted to Congress. Chungalao and all the Cordillera Congressmen now stand by their proposed law, especially on its economic development provisions which aim to give true fiscal autonomy over the Cordillera’s abundant natural resources.
The bill is the culmination of much debate and hard work among all CAR Congressmen of the 18th Congress. It is supported by years of research and public consultations done by the Cordillera RDC through its secretariat, NEDA-CAR, since the RDC renewed its pursuit of Cordillera autonomy in 2006 as the overarching theme of regional development. As an Organic Law emanating from the Cordillera people, allies such as Congressman Eric Yap and Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri showed their respect and support for the Cordillera people by basing their bills on HB 5687.